By Jessie Royce Hill
to an audio version of this
For many of us, the idea of getting up and reading the newspaper or browsing the
Internet over a cup of coffee is routine. But there is a community of people on the Cape
and south coast who don't have that luxury because they cannot see. One of them is
Sean Butler, a 33-year-old man who moved to Falmouth last year, striking out on his own
for the first time in his life.
Sean's apartment is tucked behind a shopping plaza in downtown Falmouth.
Walking into the tidy ground floor studio, there's no indication that a blind person
here. There's a television, a computer, a digital keyboard and a guitar. The Braille
timer in the kitchen might be the only giveaway.
Yarrow, come on. Over here. Good girl. Yarrow, sit down.
Good girl. Good puppy.
Even Sean's guide dog Yarrow is just an ordinary black lab when she doesn't
have her official uniform on. Sean likes his life this way. Sean lost his sight when he was
seventeen. He was a preemie and suffered a disease called retinopathy of pre-maturity,
Before that I had some usable vision. It was out of one eye.
Like Pinhole vision, that's how much I had. I could see colors, I could see a little bit
to get around, I could see large print if it was up to my face.
For the first time in his life, Sean has moved out of his parents house and into his
own apartment. Sean and Yarrow are a familiar sight in Falmouth these days where they
take their daily walks.
It's much better than living at home. Living with your folks
is living with your folks. Obviously you're not a kid and you can make your own
decisions but you can't in a way because you're still under your folks roof.
Here I like it much better.
Sean's new routine includes practicing his guitar every day and singing songs like
Neil Young's Sugar Mountain.
A number of things help Sean navigate the world, like a special bus that takes him to the
grocery store, and a special radio service. Audible Local Ledger
is a listening service he subscribes to. It
offers closed circuit radio including articles from the Cape Cod Times
as well as weather and entertainment. Sean also helps out in
I feel like I'm more connected because I have the service
and the fact that I am volunteering. It helps because I am giving something back to the
community, too. It gives me a chance to go out, too. Not that I don't anyways. Its a sighted world,
that's the way I see it and why be sheltered? I would much
rather make people aware of who I am in that being blind is a very small portion of who I
Sean and 400 other visually impaired people in the region get much of their printed
material by tuning into Audible Ledger. Ten years ago, a blind woman named Josephine
Fletcher started the listening service as a way of bolstering the blind community here.
It's part of a New England wide program.
Sighted volunteers like Anna Blake take turns clipping and reading newspaper articles in
the Ledger's cozy Mashpee office. They read everything from the obits to the funnies condensing for
Josephine Fletcher, or Jo as she's known, hopes to reach out to the nearly 8,000
visually impaired people in this region.
It doesn't matter if its a visual problem or a
neurological problem such as Parkinsons where they can't hold a book or turn
a page. It could even be someone who has dyslexia.
Jo is a small, elegant woman of a certain age, dressed on this day in floor length green
velvet with a swath of bright red hair and blue eyes. She views the Ledger as more than
a listening service. To her it's an advocacy group.
There needs to be much more education about blind
people. We are not miracle workers. We don't all hear better than anyone else.
I'm losing my hearing now cuz I'm older. We don't all sing and play the
and rock. We're just people and the only thing we have in common is the fact that
we cannot see. That's all.
In fact, Jo does sing as a church soloist, and like Sean Butler, she studied music and
plays the piano. There's a portable keyboard in her office next to her Braille
machine. Both she and Sean are also equipped with special sound equipment to help
them navigate their computers. Sean is using his to search the classifieds, just about the
only section of the papers Audible Ledger doesn't broadcast. Sean is looking for a
job in human services. That will give him evenings free to teach guitar lessons.
Broadcast July 28, 2005
Jessie Royce Hill reports for the Cape and Islands NPR Stations.
Audible Local Ledger
346 Gifford Street, Falmouth, MA 02540
(508) 457-4772 /tollfree (877) 255-2260
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